10 surprising facts about Mother’s Day

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day (Mothers Day by Nic Taylor under CC license)

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day
(Mothers Day by Nic Taylor under CC license)

Have you ever wondered about the origins of Mother’s Day? If you thought it was invented by Hallmark, I couldn’t blame you, but you’d be wrong. While celebrations honouring mothers have been around for a long time, the holiday as we know it was made official 100 years ago thanks to three American female activists. Since then it has become a profitable global celebration, much to the chagrin of the woman who created the day. She was so angry with the commercialization of the celebration that she spent the rest of her life protesting its existence.

Got your attention? Keep reading to find out more about these 10 surprising facts about Mother’s Day.


1) Celebrations honouring motherhood go way-way back.

Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated maternal goddesses. Christians in England began celebrating Mothering Sunday (visiting the mother church) in the 1600s, but even after shifting focus to a secular holiday, it fell out of favour in the 1800s. Constance Smith coaxed life back into it in 1913, and by 1938 it looked an awful lot like the American Mother’s Day.

2) Social activism is responsible for today’s phenomena not Hallmark.

Between 1868 and 1908, three American women organized a day in honour of Mothers. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis arranged Mothers Friendship Day in 1868, Julia Ward Howe first lobbied for a Mothers’ Day for Peace in 1870, and Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, initiated the first Mother’s Day celebration in 1908.

3) The mother of Mother’s Day.

After the death of her mother (yes, she was also the first woman noted above) in 1905, Anna Jarvis resolved to honor her mother. Her resolution increased when she found that adult children in the US were negligent in their behaviour towards their parents. In 1907, she began an aggressive campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. Anna used every platform to promote her cause including writing hundreds of letters along with her supporters. By 1909 45 states, Canada, and Mexico observed the day.

4) 100 years of celebrations in the US.

President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914, designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” Other countries followed, including Canada who made it official in 1915.

5) A celebration of mothers and women.

As the United States holiday was adopted by other countries and cultures, the date was changed to fit already existing celebrations honoring motherhood. Some places celebrate International Women’s Day instead of or as well as. Celebrations occur worldwide on more than 30 days of the year.

6) Carnations are the traditional flower.

Anna Jarvis started a unique tradition of wearing a carnation, her mother’s favourite flower, on Mother’s Day. She saw carnations as a simple and inexpensive symbol of love and respect for one’s mother – coloured if she were living, white if not.

7) We’re celebrating it wrong.

Anna Jarvis’ original intention of the day was to appreciate and honor your mother by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude. Sentiment lost ground to commercialization, and she became resentful and angry that companies would profit from the day. To stop the commercialization, she protested, organized boycotts, threatened lawsuits, and even tried to rescind Mother’s Day. Anna spent her last days in a nursing home, penniless after her long struggle.

8) There are two billion mothers in the world.

Only 92 million are in the US and Canada. There were 255 babies born every minute of 2013. And 83% of dads say they’ll give mom a break by taking on her responsibilities on Mother’s Day.

9) There’s many ways to tell mom you love her.

Mother’s Day is the third-largest card-sending holiday in the United States, with 133 million cards exchanged annually. Calls to Mom increase phone traffic as much as 37%, making it the busiest phone traffic day of the year. And emails and texts are on the rise.

10) How much do we love our mothers?

Americans will spend an average of $162.94 on mom in 2014, for a total of $20 billion. That makes it the second highest gift giving holiday, just behind Christmas. What mom’s really want is quality time, but they’ll probably receive flowers. Last year $1.9 billion was spent on flowers alone.

I’d love to hear from you.  Tell me what you found to be the most surprising item on this list and why.

And wherever, whenever, and however you celebrate this year, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day!

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